The larger issue is that, being a new, cloud-based system, all the hiccups haven't been worked out yet. Like often getting an error message, "We're sorry, the program guide can't be accessed right now." Or the screen image gets all pixilated and becomes unwatchable. And other cloud-glitches.
By the way, lest you get the wrong idea, this isn't a rant about Big Cable, or technical support, or any of the normal complaints available to make about cable. It's about idiocy. I'll get to that.
So, to be clear, the problem here isn't that there are hiccups in a new system. I write about technology and understand that new versions of software do have bugs that need to get worked out. But -- what I also understand is that generally they get "worked out" during the beta testing program and before the product is released to the public to pay for. And though that's not the issue here either, being a beta tester AND paying a lot of money each month for the honor is not a good standard, and is the foundation of the point at hand.
Yes, there are annoyances, but I do get it. Life is full of annoyances, and I don't expect cable to be any different. I do have other expectations, though, and we're about to get to that.
A few nights ago, there was a bigger problem than usual. Again, not The Worst Problem in the World at all -- -- they took the system down in the late evening, rather than a more sensible 3 AM morning -- but a big enough deep sigh "final straw" to call Spectrum the next day to discuss my beta tester status.
I knew it wasn't the tech person's fault, and I was thoroughly polite. In fact, I explained all the things I liked about the new system, as well as a few of the bigger problems. Actually, I wasn't even going to mention the specifics, but the customer support fellow kept asking me, because he wanted to make a record of it. Good for him. In fact he did a good job. Mainly, I just wanted to make the point that Spectrum should never have released the system until it was ready and instead make subscribers the beta testers who pay for the honor. He understood all the problems, he'd heard of them from others, and understood too the issue of releasing the software before it was ready.
Now, when I make calls like this in the past, I tend to leave it there to see how customer service handles things. When I'm had problem with Spectrum in the past, for instance, they've always said they'd rebate the cost of service for that day of the problem. No, it's not much but they make the effort. Fine. Good for them.
This fellow was very polite, but clearly wasn't authorized to do more than ask questions and be polite. Finally, realizing this, I did what I almost never do. I said that having to pay A LOT to be a tester of a system screwing up A LOT, is not how things should be, and I thought it would be proper to get some sort of rebate for all the times the software isn't working.
And that gets us to the point. Yes, I know, it took a while to get here, but hopefully the ride was comfortable.
The short version (oh, now, I hear you cry, he inserts a "short version"...) is that the fellow had to go check with his supervisors what he could do. After about 10 minutes -- coming back on line every once in a while to thank me for my patience -- he said with great pride that he could offer me...a whole $10 rebate! Although (and this is the good part), he made clear very pointedly to make sure I understand that this is a One-Time Only Offer for the year. Yes, they would rebate that $10, but wouldn't be able to do so again until next year. "How was that?" he asked.
All I could do was laugh. Literally. I said I knew it wasn't his policy, and I appreciated all the time he'd spent on the line, and I thanked him for diligently checking to get that answer -- "But," I added, "You do know that that is ridiculous."
And it was ridiculous. It's not just that the amount is paltry -- honestly, I wasn't looking for a big pay day -- but the "one-time only" limitation was insulting. It's as if they're doing you a favor. Worse, it means when the system keeps screwing up, as it will, and already has, they're off the hook. And it doesn't take much effort to now that there is a wide range of things they could have done instead, including for just one example, offer a premium service for a month. It would cost them absolutely zero, and it could even make them money if you end up liking it and subscribing. But no, $10 one-time only rebate for the year. On a bill, for some people -- if they have lots of add-on premium extras, get their phone service and also mobile service -- of $4,000 to a year, I would imagine.
I knew that that was the resolution, and let the matter dropped. There was no need to continue the conversation, and I said goodbye and thanks, and then hung up.
Again, I understand software problems. I even understand using subscribers to test your software while telling them they're getting The Latest technology. And I understand that the tech glitches are only occasional, albeit steady. I have no huge issue with that. The benefits of cable are worth it to me. And I've pleased well-enough with Spectrum tech support.
But then I also understand dealing with tech companies, which I have done professionally for the past 20 years, writing my tech review column for the Writers Guild of America, and at one point the TV Academy. And $10 for a one-time only yearly rebate -- from a corporate monopoly -- is...ridiculous. Indeed, more to the point, it's foolishly short-sighted. And counter-productive, since it risks driving customers away who might be paying for ALL of Spectrum's services, not just having a TV hiccup.
Yes, I know, it's cable. Many people have far-worse cable problems. But this really isn't about "problems." It's that I'm still laughing at the "We can give you $10!! Once." And if we screw up again, it's on you.
But what makes me most annoyed it that I didn't reply, "That's okay -- you keep the 10 bucks. Spectrum clearly needs it more than I do."